“Celeste and Jesse Forever” Review

When actors don’t like the parts they’re being offered, they sometimes write one for themselves instead. Stallone famously did this with Rocky. Kristen Wiig helped her own cause with Bridesmaids. Now Rashida Jones is joining the club with Celeste and Jesse Forever. Co-written by her longtime friend Will McCormack, the movie attempts to explore whether or not two lifelong best friends can stay close after their romance has failed. Directed by Lee Toland Kriegar (The Vicious Kind) the film isn’t a failure, it’s just a little schizophrenic.

Jones is Celeste, an uptight career gal who has run out of patience waiting for Jesse to become an adult. Andy Samberg is Jesse. He’s not an over-the-top sloth, in fact he’s kind of an artist, but he doesn’t have much motivation. They’ve both grown way too comfortable with each other. Celeste has been happy to be the alpha. Jesse has been content with being Celeste’s lover and nothing more. They’re separated early in the film, but they’ve yet to really cut the cord. Then they further fracture their relationship with their selfishness.

Then the movie focuses mostly on Celeste and her downward spiral as she tries to figure out how to move on or if she even wants to. As Celeste is making up her mind, the film struggles to do the same. Is it a big studio rom-com or a low-key indie? There’s no Katherine Heigl, but that doesn’t stop the movie from falling into some stale traps. Too many times the movie forgoes an opportunity to explore character in favor of situational comedy that is rarely funny. Celeste goes on a few disastrous dates that would fit snugly on TV. But, the film will shift and have nice introspective moments too.

It’s a shame really. The movie tries to avoid clichés, and often does; like an early plot development with Jesse’s new girlfriend that was a pleasant curveball. But, then it still has the climax take place during a wedding. It’s like the movie-gods decreed all rom-coms must contain a wedding scene. Jones gave herself a great part and she has nice chemistry with Samberg and Chris Messina, another possible beau. The movie feels more like her voice than Kriegar’s, even though it avoids any real personal depths. Samberg is reserved and used fine, he’s not really allowed to be much more.

They use the electro-synth score as a crutch to convey import but the film never really earns it. A lot of time is wasted on a pop star with real problems sub-plot and the whole thing feels long even at 90-minutes. It’s still better than most things in the genre, and if you like Jones you will be glad to see her headlining a feature. I never found the film funny or romantic enough to survive based solely on its low-key merits.

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